This is table wine.

This is dessert wine.

Well, what is the difference?

I don’t mean the package or colour. The definitions and distinctions are far more complicated.

The name was based on alcoholic content, not the taste of wine. Table wines were sometimes sweet to the taste, and dessert wines sometimes dry. In fact, half of the table wine sales included wines with sweet taste and miscellaneous other wines. Mere alcohol content did not necessarily draw a definitive line between different types or qualities of wine, and the signification of “table” was arbitrary. In wine-producing European countries, the definition of wines differed widely from the United States. In 1935, France established a system with four categories: Vin de Table (“table wine”), Vin de Pays (“country wine”), VDQS (Vin Delimité de Qualité Supérieure), and AOC (Vin d’Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Under this definition, “table wine” was any wine made anywhere in France, and designated low-end wines. The latter two wines were superior quality, categorized as “Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWpsr).” In 1962, the then European Economic Community created wine categories similar to French definition: “table wine” and “QWpsr.”

I know you are pretty confused now, so let’s stop the elaboration. These European categorizations were not based on alcohol content but on production and management method as well as geographical conditions. The American classification of wines thus can be better understood as distinguishing between cultures of taste rather than between two types of wine.